I read this book for a reading club and was blown away by the end. It was the same kind of reaction that I had from watching the movie The Sixth Sense. Well, no one in my book group saw it the same way as me. Can I give a spoiler on this post? Here goes: I thought that the boy turned out to be schitzophrenic but the rest of the group said no, that he really was in the witness protection program. Am I wrong? If so, I'm re-reading it. By the way, we're not kids, we're all fairly intelligent adults.
I agree with you AND your reading club. I might just be making this up, but I thought that he was a schitzophrenic living in an institution and the Witness Protection Program followed him to the institution and was interrogating him. I also read it with a group, but we didn't get enough time to discuss the end, so I can't say if my guess is at all correct.
I think you're both kind of right. He is a test subject in a program that is testing a brainwashing technique. His mental state is compromised by the drugs and therapy thay have given him. That's probably where you got the schitzophrenia. But he is also a witness to something that our government did, and they are trying to cover it up by erasing his memories. (The book was written in 1977 when there was a lot of paranoia about Russia using brainwashing, etc.) The way I interpreted the end was that the tests didn't work, and they are requesting permission to "terminate" him. Some of my classmates insisted that they had decided to let him go. (I think maybe I am a realist, while thay are escapists. Of course they think I am a cynic, while they are optimists.)
I read this for the first time back in Jr. High. And in the last 10 years I have asked many people if they ever read it, and what they remember from it. All of them can recall one or two scenes that struck them. One guy remembered the kiss. Another remembered the bike being stolen. But none of them could recall anything disturbing about the ending. Out of a dozen people I asked, only one thought there was any twist at the end. They all thought that he got home safely. But I had the same reaction as you. Total shocker.
I guess even fairly intelligent adults tend to see only what they want to see! :)
I completely agree with your review on the final chapters of this book. I couldn't have described it better myself.
Mr. Grey, he killed Adam's father right?
SPOILER!!!!** Because in the afterword (the part with the summery of his trials) they say they still can't prove that Grey is innocent and that they are going to kill Paul/Adam. Did anyone even get that part? I did so I'm guessing they do, but still.
I read this book not long after it was published. I think I was about ten at the time, it would have been 1980 or 1981. This book was very different from any other book that I had read. I am so glad I read this at that young age. Just the fact that reality is subjective was an important lesson that I learnt young.After reading it I was never sure that I was not just living out a fantasy in a mental institution, cycling my trike up to the front gate and back every day.
I know the plot device '...and it was all a dream' is a very old one, but this was my first experience of it and it burned into my memory.